Florence Harrison.com


Whilst browsing at an antiques fair in 2005 I came across a beautiful book with wonderful illustrations, gilded covers and page edges, entitled Christina Rossetti's poems. The asking price was beyond what I would ever have considered paying for a book of any sort at that time, but having later regretted not making an offer, I was overjoyed the following year to see that it was still up for sale. Well, I wasn't going to let it get away again and after some discussion, a price was agreed.

Little did I realise just what an effect that purchase would have on my life !

Although at that time I knew nothing of Florence, I was so moved by the style and quality of her work that I have spent the last four years discovering more about her. All the experts in the field could tell me was that "She was a lady of mystery and little is known about her".

Well, I thought, if she worked in England for more than fifty years from around 1887, there just had to be some way of discovering more about her than could be found in the reference books or on the web, so the Art correspondents and dealers must have been looking in the wrong place.

At first, I accepted without question, that those same "experts" must surely have had good reason to ascribe the hundreds of illustrations, poems and stories which appeared in various publications from around 1907 onwards, to Emma Florence Harrison and that she had chosen not to use her first name professionally.

It was an established fact that Emma had exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1887 and 1891. The first of those works was entitled "Banks Alley, Tewkesbury", so I began my search for her in that area, but a visit there produced nothing tangible. However a child of that name was born in the adjoining county of Worcestershire in 1858.

Could this have been our Florence ? Well, the dates certainly fitted and the name also matched precisely. I then traced her life through all the available records and four years later, having confirmed that she was indeed an artist, was confident that I had at last solved the mystery which had eluded the experts for so long.

I published the results of that research on my website. Then a bombshell ! Within days I was astonished to receive an email from a lady in Australia stating that my findings were totally incorrect. The real Florence Harrison, she continued, who had for so many years worked for Blackies, was Florence Susan Harrison, born in Brisbane in 1877. My informant said she was a great-niece of the artist and had in her possession documentary evidence to back up her claims.

Shortly after she sent me a copy of Florence's last handwritten letter to the family received late in 1955, together with a copy of a postcard-sized watercolour entitled "Mary, Mary quite contrary", a facsimile of a lino-cut of a Sussex Mill and a family photograph of Florence taken in Hove a few years before her death.

When I compared the handwriting in the letter with the many examples of Florence's already in my collection (I have hundreds of her original drawings which include her handwritten instructions to the printers and her signed presentation copy of Christina Rossetti's poems) there was absolutely no doubt whatsoever that it was by the same person - and this was further endorsed by graphologists.


As further confirmation, the style, draughtmanship and execution of the watercolour was also identical to those which will be familiar to anyone with more than a mere superficial knowledge of her works.


I have at last conclusively established both where she came from and the details of her family circumstances. If you click on the "Her Life" button you will be able to view what I have discovered.

Click on other buttons and you will be able to browse all I know about Florence's work and perhaps learn about some little-known titles and other aspects of her art which until now, have not generally been acknowledged.


If you feel you can add anything to my growing fund of information, or wish to discuss our mutual interest, I shall of course be very pleased to hear from you. Just click the "Contact Us" button at the foot of this page. My own research continues apace.

You may use this information for your own personal purposes, but if so I hope you will remember to pay me the courtesy of acknowledging your source as being from my website. Many of the illustrations you will come across on my site are reproductions of originals in my possession and are subject to the laws of copyright.

Florence Harrison

My grateful thanks are due - in chronological order - to Geoffrey Beare of "IBIS", Ruth Pricket of the magazine "Illustration" and John Howe in his article "The defining of Dreams", for all their help and encouragement in further promoting and publishing the results of my research and thereby enabling it to reach a wider audience.


I must also thank our dear friends Pauline and Terry for their continual support and interest over many years.

 

Much of the information critical to bringing my research to a final conclusion was provided by Florence's family in Sydney and I am very pleased to have helped them to ensure that "Aunt Florrie" now occupies a proper place amongst the great illustrators of the time.

 

A special thank you to my dear husband Alan for joining me on trips to Antique and Book Fairs in search of Florence Harrison's works and for the many hours he spent paging through dusty archives. Together we enjoyed an exciting journey of discovery. Thank you Alan - with all my love. Mary